The Soul's Code
From Nicos' list on to help guide you through your midlife crisis.
5 authors have picked their favorite books about destiny and why they recommend each book.
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From Nicos' list on to help guide you through your midlife crisis.
I’m a writer and world-traveler. But in my previous life, I was a media executive. At thirty-five years old, at the height of my career in that world, I felt an emptiness – a lack of meaning in my life. I decided to quit and retreat to a family country house in order to figure out my next steps. I soon realized that I was experiencing a full-blown midlife crisis and started reading a lot of books in order to understand my predicament. I ended up reading for four years before finally deciding to travel around the world. The following books are the ones that helped me the most; I recommend them to others who are entering this crucial period of life.
The book is the product of my continuous six-and-a-half-year journey around the world, during which I visited seventy countries on six continents, treating the world as if it were a single destination. While many travelers today concern themselves with destinations solely for amusement, relaxation, and entertainment, I propose a more meaningful, rewarding, and fulfilling way of viewing travel. Enriched with travel anecdotes and some of my best travel photos, the book sheds light on the relationship between Travel and Life as a whole. Ideas and experiences are interwoven into a newly created Philosophy of Travel that is practical and easy to apply.
From Leslie's list on the power of family secrets.
One of the many things I like about this novel is the way the writing itself mimics the confusion of the protagonist, Jonah—the way Chaon allows us to completely inhabit his mind, down to the most telling details, his doubts, and precise but uncertain perceptions. We too search for the person whom Jonah intuits but doesn’t know, we grasp for the shape whose presence shadows his life. I was dazzled by the patchy way that Chaon builds the narrative, the intriguing overlaps, and surprising connections as he moves between past and present, allowing the secret at the heart of the story to float closer to the surface. I felt deep compassion for the pain and bewilderment of the characters, for the way they struggled forward, for the complexity of their feelings for each other.
As I child I wanted to know the information that was withheld from me. What were the adults whispering about? What were they hiding? Secrets, things that are hidden, have a way of shaping the lives around them, a dark space that exerts a presence, even though it isn’t seen. I thought if I found out the secret, maybe my family, and the world, would make sense. Breaking Out of Bedlam is my version of my grandmother’s story, based on the whispers I heard and a few faint clues—a newspaper clipping, a Bible, and a baby’s sock. More than that, it’s an explanation for the silence in my family, for my grandmother’s bitterness, her drug abuse, and depression.
Cora Sledge is horrified when her children, who doubt her ability to take care of herself, force her into The Palisades, an assisted living facility. Deciding that truth is the best revenge, Cora writes a tell-all journal that reveals once and for all the secret she has guarded since she was a young woman. She chronicles her childhood in rural Missouri, her shotgun wedding, and the terrible event that changed the course of her life—all intermingled with an account of the day-to-day dramas at The Palisades.
Breaking Out of Bedlam captures the loneliness and secrets that lurk within families, the hardscrabble reality facing women with limited resources, and the resilience of a woman who survives, despite all the odds, through an unlikely combination of passion, humor, and faith.
From Natasha's list on quirky fantasies with feisty “take charge” girls.
Okay, this is an old-fashioned book with some old-fashioned views, but it was my childhood favorite, so I had to include it! Orphaned Maria is sent to live with a distant relative at Moonacre Manor, but all is not as perfect as it seems, and it isn’t long before Maria discovers a world of hidden secrets and ancient feuds. It can’t have been easy growing up a feisty girl in Victorian England, but Maria Merryweather manages it, and I love that about her. She is stubborn, brave, and inquisitive, refusing to let anything dampen her spirit. As well as a passion for life Maria also has a passion for good food, (like me) so eat a snack while you read this because the descriptions will make you hungry! A perfect balance of mystery, magic, and teatime treats.
I write books about feisty girls who follow their dreams and don’t let fear stand in their way. Growing up in London I was an extremely shy child with a full-blown fantasy life, but at eighteen decided it was time to channel my inner “feisty girl”, take charge of my destiny, and travel to America to pursue my dream of becoming a writer. Now, many years later I am the proud author of five middle-grade novels, and the mother of four amazing children who are all off following their own dreams. When I’m not writing books about feisty girls, I’m reading other people's. Here are some of my favorites.
The one thing Cat Campbell wants more than anything is the one thing she can’t have – magic. That is until the day Cat discovers she has indeed inherited her mother’s magic gene. But as a ‘late bloomer’ witch Cat’s magic is difficult to control and not only does she have to battle with spells going wrong, she also has to face the disapproval of her mother, who gave up magic long ago and wants nothing to do with it. When the town of Potts Bottom is turned upside down after the notorious witch Madeline Reynolds escapes from prison, Cat grabs at the chance to prove herself, her magic, and to help her family and town by setting off on the riskiest adventure of her life.
From Judith's list on set in the Trojan War.
Carosella offers another, refreshing take on Helen. This Helen takes control of her life and tries to defy fate (and the gods do their darndest, as usual in Greek mythology, to make her and everyone else miserable). Carosella’s engaging novel develops the characters’ jealousies, passions, and loyalties, as well as bringing the reader directly into the ancient Greek world. I enjoyed the sense of interconnectedness between different parts of this Greek and Mediterranean world, Troy, Sparta, Egypt, Mycenae, and Athens. This accurately reflects the current understanding of this exotic world. I appreciate a flexible view of all the legendary mythology surrounding this iconic war, and Carosella has flexed some impressive muscle.
I write fiction set in the Bronze Age world of the Trojan War and the Hittite Empire. I love to combine history and archaeology with magic and fantasy arising from the ancient beliefs of this period. My novels bring women to the fore—whether the captive Briseis or a remarkable Hittite queen lost to human memory until recently. Armed with degrees in Classics, I have spent too much time exploring the remains of the ancient Greeks and Hittites through travel and research. From the beginning, the Trojan War tradition has left room for many variations. Here are five entirely different “takes” on this iconic war—all masterfully written.
A legendary war, an invincible warrior, a woman forced to defend her family and realm—and her independent spirit. Will she become the captive or the captor?
Briseis struggles to protect her city, an ally of Troy, from marauding Greeks and her husband’s arrogant violence. She finds strength in visions of a handsome warrior god until he appears before her in flesh and blood. When Briseis raises a sword against the mighty Achilles, she ignites a passion that threatens to betray everyone she holds dear. Hand of Fire gives voice to Briseis, a pivotal but silenced woman of the Trojan War. Set within a richly developed Bronze Age world, it depicts the resilience of ancient women finding the strength to overcome trauma and loss.
From Mark's list on Indian Buddhist philosophy.
A key claim of Buddhist philosophy is that all the facts about persons are causally determined. This claim leads people to wonder where Buddhists stand on the so-called ‘free will’ problem: can someone whose actions are determined by earlier events be held responsible for what they do? This question never arose in Indian Buddhist philosophy, but modern scholars have had much to say about whether Buddhism’s causal determinism is compatible with the practice of praising or blaming people for what they do. This book collects some of the best attempts to answer the question.
I began studying philosophy, both western and Asian, as a college freshman, and I never stopped. Much of my career in philosophy was devoted to building bridges between western and Buddhist traditions. The best philosophers try to make their ideas as clear as possible. But standards of clarity can differ across traditions, and this sometimes makes it difficult to present the theories and arguments of one philosophical tradition to those who think in terms of another. I have struggled with this in my own efforts at bridge-building, and I am always appreciative when I see other scholars of Buddhism achieve the sort of clarity I aim for.
In Buddhism as Philosophy, Mark Siderits makes the Buddhist philosophical tradition accessible to a Western audience. Offering generous selections from the canonical Buddhist texts and providing an engaging, analytical introduction to the fundamental tenets of Buddhist thought, this revised, expanded, and updated edition builds on the success of the first edition in clarifying the basic concepts and arguments of the Buddhist philosophers.
From Nick's list on fantasy to defy the genre.
Admittedly, Cloud Atlas isn’t for everyone. But for readers who appreciate the beauty of language, Mitchell’s epic is a literary marvel. Part historical fiction, part Sci-Fi, Cloud Atlas weaves a parable spanning generations of human history. Through the eyes of his varied protagonists, who may or may not be the same reincarnated soul, Mitchell demonstrates the failings and triumphs of humanity. It’s a book that’ll make you question everything you think you know, and it might just make you a better person.
Since before I could write my name, I’ve felt the need to put pen to paper. As a child, I needed a cassette tape recorder to get my fiction out there. I am pretty sure I have a small universe swelling like a tumor in my brain, and if I don’t disseminate the words that make up that world, it’ll grow and grow until it kills me. But I most want to move people with words; that’s where the magic of storytelling lies. I want my readers to come away from the page feeling like they’ve had a genuine experience the way only a great story can offer.
Radia was born with a power she does not understand, an empathic connection to Nature that may lead to the destruction of all she holds dear, her life and her people.
Tyrnael once served as the capital of Aenya, but the kingdom declines over the ages and its advanced technology is lost to the pages of myth. Centuries pass when Radia's father dies and she inherits the throne of the once-fabled city. Innocent to the cruelties of the world beyond her ivory tower, she is helpless when her adopted brother, Zaibos, seizes control in a violent coup. While the suffering of her people ravages her soul, her lone protector, Demacharon, forces her to flee, knowing the new king will destroy her if she remains.
From Kimberly's list on that I never wanted to end.
I’m going to try really to not spoil this one…This is the story of two people who seem to be locked in life together, and not just locked in life, but repeating life. Sometimes they are friends. Sometimes they are lovers. There’s even a life where they are parent and child. The scenarios repeat – a bit of a Groundhog Day-ness to them. Then you quickly realize this is a cleverly disguised sci-fi, but despite all that, it’s the soul-mate-like connections that make us human.
Why do I have a passion for getting lost in books? I guess it’s something that I’ve loved since I was a kid. Finding a world, a life, a life so incredibly different from mine. And, good writing that draws me in and makes me completely forget who I am. These are books that you don’t just read, but they envelop you. And, as a writer, it’s something that I strive to do for my readers.
Dying isn’t just hard on the ones left behind, the regret of unfinished lives weighs heavily on the terminally ill. That’s where Dire’s Club steps in, a specialty travel agency that takes a small group of dying people on one final adventure—so they can be free of guilt, be more than a diagnosis, and find a way to confront life…and death.
A life coach with a death wish, a rock god, a telenovela star, a grandmother living her life-long dream, and a young tech genius round out this group of strangers facing death together. But when tragedy strikes, their bond is shattered. Lies and fraud surface, forcing the dying to come together to save someone’s life. Everybody dies. The lucky ones have fun doing it.
From Elana's list on for people who love dragons as central characters.
Given is a fantasy romance, centering on the relationship between Yenni and Weysh. Yenni is a princess of the Yirba who ventures to a distant land to seek a magical cure for her ailing father; Weysh is a charming and troublesome dragon shapeshifter who believes Yenni is his Given, or destined mate.
In addition to offering a unique spin on dragons, Given has wonderful world building. We learn about the intertwined history of three cultures: the Yirba, the Creshens, and the once-mighty dragons. While the draconic aspect is what drew me to this book, I also loved learning about the magic system, and how each culture approaches magic use. The romance is sweet and understated, and is well balanced with Yenni and Weysh's personal goals.
Dragons are my passion, I've lovingly been referred to as The World's Foremost Dragon Authority, and I've made it my mission to consume as much dragon media as I can. As someone who also loves science, I'm especially drawn to media that addresses draconic physiology, evolution, and culture. I can name every taxonomic family, genus, and species in the order Draconidae, and there's nothing I love more than sharing my dragon knowledge and stories with others!
Though Keriya Nameless has no magical powers, which is considered a disability in her world, she's recruited to save the last living dragon. Keriya leaps at the chance to prove her worth, though failure could mean the destruction of everything she holds dear.
Dragon Speaker offers a fresh take on the classic dragon/rider trope. Where many stories treat their dragons as accessories or plot devices, The Shadow War Saga dragons are central characters with agency. They're intelligent, autonomous beings (as opposed to the cliché one-dimensional villains or simple-minded work beasts we often see). If you're a fantasy aficionado, this series offers you a vibrant world filled with magic, adventure, and – most important – dragons!
From Kristina's list on YA contemporary romances that take you abroad.
As much as I adore learning new languages, books that transport me to English-speaking countries across the pond are some of my favorites. I love romantic comedies set in Great Britain.
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight takes us to England, although much of the story is about getting there, which I didn’t mind at all. (Life is about the journey.) This is another fun, young adult romance with more than just fluff, and tons of heart.
I write romantic comedies for readers who want adventure in the great wide somewhere and can’t wait until the next time they hear the words bon voyage! Even as a young, midwestern farm girl, I always had a passion for languages and a strong desire to travel. As soon I flew the coop and went to college, I made friends with students from all over the world. Eventually, I followed my travel plans, learned to speak three languages, and now can’t decide whether to adopt London or Paris as my European hometown.
For six weeks every summer, Lily Carter endures custody visits to Manhattan and Paris where she lives in the shadow of her famous mother and supermodel sister—until the summer that changes everything. Two weeks shy of her sixteenth birthday, Lily is thrust into her mother’s latest perfume campaign and life goes down the eau de toilet.
Forced into the spotlight and paired up with the heart-stopping pop star du jour, Lily is tempted by the very lifestyle she’s always rejected and must decide whether to bloom and find love in the world she despises, or remain loyal to everything she’s ever cherished.
From Tanvi's list on oceanic YA fantasy.
The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea is a lyrical, whimsical retelling of Korean folklore that is all about fate and family. Mina, the protagonist, kickstarts the story to protect her brother from the wrath of the seas and gets whisked into the Spirit Realm by an underwater dragon(!). Everything that follows comes from Mina’s love and duty, and at its core, this book is about the many types of relationships one can have. The world of The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea is visually rich and vibrant as a Ghibli tale, the aesthetics of which are also one of the inspirations for this book.
I’m a South Asian writer who grew up in dry plains and the desert, so when I saw the ocean for the first time—it was an absolute shock to my senses. I was drawn to its vastness, its strangeness. Everything about our seas is fascinating, from the way they sustain life on the planet to the alien creatures that inhabit them. Since I’m a reader, I began to look for books featuring seas, and after nonfic ones, found fantasy books that were set in imaginative water-based worlds. This lifelong love has now led to my own debut being an oceanic fantasy. So I hope you enjoy this list. :)
In an oceanic world swarming with vicious beasts, 16-year-old Koral is forced to capture maristags for the Glory Race, a deadly chariot tournament reserved for the upper class. The winning contender receives gold and glory. The others―if they're lucky―survive. When the last maristag of the year escapes and Koral has no new maristag to sell, her family's financial situation takes a turn for the worse and they can't afford medicine for her chronically ill little sister. Koral's only choice is to do what no one in the world has ever dared: cheat her way into the Glory Race.
Perfect for fans of The Hunger Games, this South Asian-inspired fantasy is a gripping debut about the power of the elite, the price of glory, and one girl’s chance to change it all.